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'Spice World': This Is Not 'Spinal Tap'

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 23, 1998

  Movie Critic

Movie Scene
A Spice rack, clockwise from bottom: "Spice World's" Ginger, Posh, Sporty, Scary and Baby Spice. (Columbia Pictures)

Bob Spiers
Melanie Brown;
Emma Bunton;
Melanie Chisholm;
Geri Haliwell;
Victoria Addams
Running Time:
1 hour, 33 minutes
For sexual innudendo that may be inappropriate for younger audiences
"Spice World," the Spice Girls' mistake masquerading as a movie, is so bad that it makes the Village People's "Can't Stop the Music" look like "Citizen Kane." Vanity, thy names be Emma Bunton, Geri Halliwell, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm and Victoria Adams, or, more familiarly, Baby Spice, Ginger Spice, Scary Spice, Sporty Spice and Posh Spice.

Unwisely, the Spice Girls, who play themselves, have tried to model "Spice World" on the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" and "This Is Spinal Tap," forgetting that the Beatles were talented and "Spinal Tap" was funny. And, unfortunately, "Spice World" director Bob Spiers is no Richard Lester or Rob Reiner, despite having the "Absolutely Fabulous" television series on his resume. Call this one "Absolutely Flatulent."

On record, in their videos and now on the big screen, the Spice Girls, a k a the Prefab Five, have yet to display any discernible talent beyond aerobic energy and perky posturing. Their music is infectious but harmless dance-pop that for the most part wouldn't beg a second listen were it not for the marketing hype that has made the Spice Girls international pop stars of the moment.

Any more efforts like the plotless, pointless, mirthless "Spice World" and that moment will be foreshortened.

Sort of a day-in-the-life (at 95 minutes, a very long day), "Spice World" knits together strands of plot with no thread of continuity, much less a grand design – it's like a series of "Laugh-In" sketches strung together haphazardly. True to paranoid fantasy ("Get ready for the backlash," counsels one Spiceman), the film pits assorted tabloid tormentors against the spunky lasses as they prepare for their first-ever concert at the Albert Hall.

Subplots include the attempted making of a documentary about the Spice Girls, discussions (and occasional actualizations) of various outlandish feature films starring the Girls, out-of-the-blue bonding with an old pal as she's about to have a baby (allowing the Spices to imagine themselves as future mothers) and assorted boat and bus chases, alien encounters (the little green men are fans, of course), dancing lessons and fashion shoots.

The Spice Girls rumble around London in a Union Jack-bedecked double-decker bus that's three times as big inside as it is on the outside (each Spice has efficiency-apartment-size space of her own). They have pillow fights. They banter about clothes. They bicker with their histrionic manager, Clifford (Richard E. Grant, until now a respected character actor).

Occasionally, the Spices get surrealistic career counsel over the phone by their label-head, the mysterious Chief (Roger Moore, the onetime James Bond who seems to have based his role on Ernst Blofeld from "Thunderball").

The Spice Girls play themselves with no particular distinction. Scary seems to have some spunk, but she's so aggressively self-conscious that she wears thin quickly. Sporty's Liverpool accent is made thicker by what sounds like perpetual nasal congestion, while busty Ginger looks like a reformed stripper who's been at the buffet table too long. Baby Spice hardly makes an impression, but Posh Spice is sleek and slim and clearly destined for the next James Bond film.

Embarrassing cameos are made by Elton John, George Wendt, Elvis Costello, Bob Geldof, Bob Hoskins, Jennifer Saunders (of "Absolutely Fabulous") and Richard O'Brien (author of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"). Meat Loaf reprises his "Roadie" role as the Girls' bus driver, apparently chosen merely to punch-line a clogged-toilet joke with "I'd do anything for you, but I won't do that!"

They should all be ashamed.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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